Recently I've been involved in that project, where data and information that was being created for years in on premise SharePoints had to be migrated to the sharepoint online environment in office 365. All migration was said to be a simple, straightforward and easy due to the usage of sharegate, but... the real truth turned out to be way more dark.
Before the real migration started I sat down and started reading about the process and possible obstacles. I can now divide them into 3 groups:
- Limitations of Sharegate
- Limitations of SharePoint Online
- Limitations of Nintex for Office 365.
First things first. I will guide you through all and each from them.
Limitations of Sharegate
Sharegate is a really great tool. Honestly. It saved me dozens of hours but as well made me frustrated. But still it is great. It really allows not straightforward migrations to be possible (like from SP2007 directly to SP2013 and so on), is the only tool that allows automatic migration from on premise to online, allows migration of sites, users, managed metadata and many, many more.
Currently Sharegate supports migration of 30 actions that are present in on premise (source: Nintex FAQ – Sharegate):
|Action Name On Premises||Mapped Action in Office 365|
|Action Set||Action Set|
|Assign Flexi task||Start a Task Process|
|Calculate date||Add Time to Date|
|Change state||Change State|
|Check in item||Check In Item|
|Check out item||Check Out Item|
|Convert Value||Convert Value|
|Create item||Create List Item|
|Delete item||Delete Item WM Action|
|Discard check out||Discard Check Out Item|
|End workflow||Terminate Current Workflow|
|Log in history list||Log to History List|
|Loop||Loop with Condition|
|Math operation||Do Calculation|
|Pause for...||Pause For Duration|
|Pause until...||Pause Until|
|Query List||Query List|
|Regular expression||Regular Expression|
|Run if||Run If|
|Run parallel actions||Parallel Block|
|Send notification||Send an email|
|Set a condition||Conditional Branch|
|Set field value||Set field in current item|
|Set variable||Set Workflow Variable|
|Set workflow status||Set Workflow Status|
|State machine||State Machine|
|Twitter Tweet||Twitter Tweet|
|Update item||Update List Item|
|Yammer Message||Yammer Message|
|Build String||Build String|
|For Each||For Each|
|Commit Pending Changes||---|
To use Sharegate you have to really review each from your workflows and re-build it, so that you can expect that it will be migrated. Note, that:
- there are some crucial actions, that are totally unsupported but can be "workarouned".
- there are actions that just cannot be migrated and must be re-created after the migration.
What to do with them? I recommend the following approach:
|On premise action||Office 365 action counterpart||Remarks|
|Query/ Update XML||Query/ Update XML|
Actions are not supported because of the architecture differences. Sharegate will migrate them as a blank placeholders.
|User Profile actions||Office 365 User Profile actions||Sharegate will migrate them as a blank placeholders.|
|flexi task||Start a task process/ Assign a task (based on how many approvers you have)||No "To Do" task either. You cannot set mail priority, you cannot chose to which from "assigned" user the notification will be sent, you cannot delegate (workaround: https://community.nintex.com/community/build-your-own/blog/2015/02/26/delegation-in-o365aA), you cannot calculate time to send reminder. Oh, and you cannot attach files to the notification message. Some workarounds are possible after the migration, some are not available at all.|
|search query||Office 365 Search Query||Sharegate will migrate it as a blank placeholder.|
|dynamics crm||"Dynamics CRM" actions||Sharegate will migrate it as a blank placeholder.|
|convert document action||"Document Generation"||Sharegate will migrate it as a blank placeholder.|
|set item permissions||Office 365 update item permissions||Sharegate will migrate it as a blank placeholder.|
|Update document||No direct counterpart||Sharegate will migrate it as a blank placeholder.|
|Create item in another site||Office 365 Create List Item or Document Set||Sharegate will migrate it as a blank placeholder.|
|Update/ Delete multiple items||Possibly by some HTTP Request call||Sharegate will migrate it as a blank placeholder.|
|Build string||Build string||Action is not supported for migration because of the architecture differences. Sharegate will migrate them as a blank placeholders.|
|Collection operation||By a proper Collection operation||Actions differs. There is a dedicated "Collection operation" per each operation, not one for all as in on premise. Sharegate will migrate them as a blank placeholders.|
|Store/ Retrieve data||No direct counterpart||There is no possibility for the workflows in O365 to "talk" with each other. Consider change of the workflow design.|
|Start workflow||Start workflow||Action is not supported for migration because of the architecture differences. Sharegate will migrate them as a blank placeholders.|
|Create site collection||By a proper Office 365 create site collection|
|Delete site||By a proper Office 365 delete site|
|Delegate workflow task||By Assign a task and custom work||For example: https://community.nintex.com/community/build-your-own/blog/2015/02/26/delegation-in-o365|
|Request approval||Office 365 set approval status||Action is not supported for migration because of the architecture differences. Sharegate will migrate them as a blank placeholders.|
|And many, many more... Read the attachment|
Complete list of "non-migratable" actions is listed here: Nintex FAQ – Sharegate.
Limitations of SharePoint Online
One and the most irritating limitations are the thresholds (Software boundaries and limits for SharePoint 2013). And in Online you CANNOT CHANGE THEM Be aware of them and don't get angry when migrating:
- Workflow file cannot exceed 5MB - (source: https://community.nintex.com/message/57706-re-what-is-the-default-limitation-in-nintex-for-exporting-a-workflow?commentI…) that simply means, it shouldn't have more than 100 actions inside.
HOWEVER I had a "pleasure" to migrate workflows having like 5 actions without a success and so far I have no idea why Sharegate was reporting errors when migrating.
- Infopath file cannot be larger than 5MB (be aware if you have forms with attachments).
- List/ library cannot hold more than 5.000 items. If you do exceed it during the migration, be prepared to observe abnormal behavior of your tenant.
Limitations of Nintex for Office 365
Those limits have already been described during in the "Sharegate limitations" - those limits are most often caused by the differences in the SharePoint Online hosted environment limitations, thus some actions were just impossible to be re-created and had to be done from a scratch, some has different architecture and cannot be directly migrated. And still, there is a huge lack of functionality in Nintex for Office 365:
- There is no conditional start for workflows, however it can be replaced with filter action
Conditional Start is present in NWO365 since January 2018
- There are no site scheduled workflows, but you can workaround it by either using 3rd party: Plumsail Workflow Scheduler or simply work them around: Scheduled Workflows in Office 365;Scheduled Workflows are present in NWO365 since end of July 2017
- When comparing you are more than often not able to verify if a value "is empty". You can only compare whether it equals or not (but you cannot set equation to nothing );
- No "workflow constants".
Some functionality related to "Workflow Constants": Connection Manager, allowing workflow designer to define credentials that will be then used to authenticate all "Office 365" actions, across a tenant, is present in NWO365 since February 2018.
- No "inline functions".
- No "UDA" actions.
- No action sets. Action Sets are present in NWO365 since end of June 2017
- No support for custom actions.
I just felt that this post cannot end up like this. So there is a hope for all of that. Both Sharegate and Nintex are working to develop their products - Sharegate to support migration for new actions (I heard UDAs and Action Sets are on their roadmap), what is Nintex working on you can find here: 3 - Nintex Workflow for Office 365: Hot (300 ideas) – Customer Feedback for Nintex.
I wish you all all best in your migration projects
If you have any questions or stories you'd like to share feel free to leave them in comments. I'm sure there are more issues I am not aware of yet